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Providing a voice for the voiceless

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Interview with Shanti Ahluwalia, a campaign officer for SAFE, New Zealand's leading animal advocacy organization.

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Providing a voice for the voiceless

  1. 1. Providing a voice for the voiceless According to PETA, every year more than 100 million animals are tortured and killed in US laboratories for biology lessons, medical training, and experimentation; or for drug, food, and cosmetic testing. We spoke to Shanti Ahluwalia, a Campaign Officer for SAFE, New Zealand’s leading animal advocacy organization, who shared his perspective on the current status of animal cruelty. – Shanti Ahluwalia Campaign Officer for SAFE ““ Cruelty of Animal Testing www.ziwira.com 18 december Issue 12 2015 www.ziwira.com FEATURE Chickens for meat production are bred to grow very quickly, and suffer a wide- range of health problems as a result. The use of small animals for experimental purposes has been met with mass protesting and vigilant campaigning, most of which occurred as a response to increased awareness around the issue, thanks to the likes of PETA (People for the Ethical treatment of Animals), SAFE (Save Animals From Exploitation), and the Humane Society. As more companies emerged throughout the mid-to- late 19th century, the number of animals used in tests increased, along with the number of tests themselves. This rapid increase in animal testing led to the development of numerous agencies aimed at halting animal testing, while also sharing their sentiment with the greater public. Abuse of animals during testing was well publicized throughout the 1990’s, creating a movement, and garnered public anger in response to the practice. The increased attention led to the ban on animal testing for cosmetics in the UK in 1998. In late May, following heavy campaigning by SAFE and the Green Party, New Zealand became one of the first countries to amend the Animal Welfare Act to make it illegal for companies to test finished products or their ingredients on animals in the country. In addition to New Zealand, already a number of countries have taken progressive steps to stop the unnecessary suffering of animals used in tests for personal care and household products, including: India, Brazil’s Sao Paulo region, Israel, Norway, and the European Union; with Australia, Canada and Taiwan in consideration. “The reaction has been tremendously positive,” Shanti told us. “On social media, we had the largest swell of support we have ever had. In the media, many outlets reported the victory. However, the ban only applies to testing done in New Zealand. The government must follow the European Union’s example and ban the importation of products tested on animals too.” New Zealand already has a reasonably clean reputation around the world for its treatment of animals, and this new law further contributes to the positive image. While no known testing is currently taking place in New Zealand, the new measure ensures that it never will. A recent poll found that 89 percent of New Zealanders were against animal testing in cosmetics, because of the cruelty that has been exposed by the likes of PETA and SAFE.
  2. 2. www.ziwira.com december Issue 12 2015 www.ziwira.com feature 20 “In the Draize test, rabbits can be restrained and have chemicals poured into their eyes, mouth, or face,” says Shanti. “This can cause severe pain and distress. Animal testing includes the worst cruelty imaginable, and there is absolutely no reason to do it for cosmetics. Many companies don’t test on animals, so products will still be available.” The abuse of animals for experimental purposes has driven the emergence of many high-profile individuals to publicly condemn the practice. PETA has an enormous amount of support from the celebrity community, with concrete support from the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Alec Baldwin, Charlize Theron, Joaquin Phoenix, Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, and Kesha (just to name a few). In a recent video for Humane Society USA’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign, Kesha sends a clear message to her fans about animal testing for cosmetic products, by getting ready for a night out using makeup products that are strictly free from animal testing. At the end of the video, she leaves a message on her mirror written in lipstick to #BeCrueltyFree. Pamela Anderson also recently spoke out about the issue, writing a strongly worded letter to MAC Cosmetics, expressing her outrage that the company does in fact test products on animals in countries that legally require it for imported cosmetics, when for so long, MAC has prided itself on providing cruelty-free products. “We’ve known each other for a long time, and I’ve always admired you for embracing MAC Cosmetics as a pioneer in cruelty-free makeup,” Anderson wrote in the letter. “That’s why I was so proud to be a Viva Glam MAC girl in 2004. But the buzz is much different now, and you know I can’t bite my tongue.” Anderson urged the company to stop selling to China (where animal testing is required), noting that she still had “faith” in the brand. Further to big-brand shaming, PETA has now stricken lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret from its list of cruelty-free companies, as the company recently confirmed its deal to sell beauty products in mainland, China. Although the Chinese Government has in recent years, relaxed its animal-testing mandate for certain types of cosmetics that are produced and sold in the country, the new rules don’t cover imported or specialty products. American-based companies have been eager to capitalize on China’s $15 billion cosmetics market, but in doing so, many companies, most notably Avon, Mary Kay, and Estee Lauder, reverse decades of “no animal testing” policies. They must now face the consequence of losing a strong customer base who appreciate the cruelty-free aspect. “Although the company fully understands the Chinese Government’s requirements for tests on animals for cosmetics, it has chosen to enter this market anyway,” PETA wrote on their website about Victoria’s Secret. PETA commended the label’s fellow Limited Brands subsidiaries, including Bath & Body Works, for not expanding into China and “remaining committed to their cruelty-free policies.” But cruelty to animals doesn’t just stop at cosmetic testing. PETA recently released an exposé of luxury French handbag label Hermès, revealing evidence of reptiles put through unimaginable suffering at a leather farm in Texas. The animals are allegedly forced to live in dirty, dark pits, before they are dragged out by workers and placed on a table, struggling desperately to escape, before being brutally slaughtered. The Fur Trade is another issue, one that Shanti feels particularly passionate about. He feels that there is no kind way of ripping an animal’s skin off its back. He also strongly opposes factory farming, a practice that has no place in the modern world. “Pigs and chickens get the worst of it,” says Shanti. “Sows are kept in crates, unable to turn around for weeks at a time. Their piglets are taken away from them and kept in fattening pens, with very little space. Chickens for egg production are kept in cages, with about as much space as an A4 sheet of paper per hen. Chickens for meat production are bred to grow very quickly, and suffer a wide-range of health problems as a result.” For now, SAFE’s largest endeavor is the Stop Factory Farming campaign. Shanti says that they have so far been successful in banning sow stalls in New Zealand, and conventional battery hen cages will also be phased out. They are also campaigning against duck shooting, and many other issues that involve animal cruelty. Without the likes of PETA and SAFE, our world would be a cruel and unsustainable place.

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